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English countryside home and herb garden

English Home With Herb Gardens

  Historically the English,  and most Europeans,  were ahead of the U.S. in the growing and use of herbs.  In the early 1900's many Europeans wondered why the U.S., with its vast array of land, was not taking advantage of gardening with herbs.   The U.S. had so much land compared to the English and could not understand how we could ignore such vast resources.   Our diet mainly consisted of the use of staples such as potatoes, root vegetables like onions, meat and other "farm" related products.  Nothing was wrong with the nutrition value other than the food did not taste good. 

     For centuries in England and Europe there was a committed effort to enhance the flavor of food using herbs and spices.  The most valued spice being sugar, which was used with wine as a sweetener, and led to sweet wines being something only the Royals could afford.    The addition of sugar made the wines more palatable and thus became associated with wealth because only the "upper crust" could afford such a valuable spice.

     The poor families could not afford spices such as salt, pepper, cinnamon, and other exotic flavorings so they looked for options.   The most apparent option was what was native to the country that grew naturally, yet taste good and enhanced the culinary process.   The answer was herbs.  The English began to experiment with using herbs for seasonings and developed gardens, containers, small areas to grow plants that could be used for flavorings.   This began the interest in herbs.

    About 1900 Mr. M.G. Kains, living in America, Associate Editor of the American Agriculturist, published his book called "Culinary Herbs" to begin to educate the Americans of the vast amount of cheap, harvestable herbs we could use to enhance the culinary experiences of the citizens.   In the preface to the book Mr. Kains stated:

"I can also bear ample witness to the fact that they reduce the cost of high living, if by that phrase is meant pleasing the palate without offending the purse."

 Mr. Kains was well aware of the cost of spices and the attitude that food could only be enhanced with spices that most Americans could not afford.   He wrote the book to educate the Americans on the ways to use popular foods, many root vegetables such as onions, and "recycle" the leftovers flavoring them with herbal seasonings. 

  By using herbs, rather than salt, pepper, sugar one could make very delicious soups, stews, to feed 10 -12 people, for a cost of 25 cents or less.   The ingredients were mainstay, leftovers, but when seasoned with herbs approached the culinary standards of the best cuisine found in England and Europe. 

   His original work became a primer in the U.S. on how to grow, harvest, prepare and cook with herbs.  Much of his original work has survived to present day, with the exception that today we often use herbs as healthy additives for seasonings, rather than excessive non healthy ingredients such as sugar and salt. 

   Over 20 excerpts from the book by Mr. Kains on specific herbs can be found  on the HerbFest website by typing in search, "heritage herbs".  One can begin to learn how any small area, apartment deck, or large garden can be used to produce herbs, not only tasty but also healthy, for small amounts of money.  Raising and using herbs is not just a culinary experience but a lifestyle change that is now being engaged across America.

 

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